Who is… the Wolverine?


I had a stray thought last night during dinner, as a fork was plunging towards my eye.

“You know,” I thought, watching in slow motion as the baby’s utensil hurtled at my face, “there are things they don’t warn you about when you’re becoming a parent. Sure, they constantly talk about the 3:00 a.m. feedings, as if I’ve never been up at 3:00 a.m. on a weeknight before. Changing the diapers, they talk about all the time because, oh my God, when have any of us ever seen poop, other than every day of our lives for decades? So many parents talk about the basic stuff like it’s hard– I suspect because everyone likes to think they did something hard, and literally anyone can be a parent– but come on: wiping an ass? The next time someone kvetches to me about the diapers, I’m going to do a stage yawn in his face. What I really would have appreciated, the real Wisdom of the Ages I could have done with, would have been something along the lines of, ‘Just FYI: your kid is going to develop motor skills way before language, so at some point she’s going to think it’s frigging hysterical to stab you in the eye and nothing you say is going to dissuade her. Protect your face at all times. Act like you live in some kind of acid lab.'”

As it happened, this time the kid’s motor skills were about on par with her language skills. The fork landed a good three millimeters below my eye, leaving me with a three-dot prison tattoo instead of a disability. I don’t think she could have literally blinded me (it was a plastic fork) but I was still a little traumatized. After all, every doctor’s visit I’ve had since she was born has been eye-injury-related. Last time, it was a good old-fashioned clawing.

No, I’m not an imbecile. I do learn from my mistakes. You spend so much time holding them close to your face, and then they just lunge! You’ll see.

Naturally, any time I am clawed and/or take many weeks to heal, it gets me thinking about Wolverine. It occurred to me this weekend that no superhero has ever been more lackadaisical about secret identities than Logan. The X-Men in general treat masks like they’re ball caps– sometimes they’ll wear one, sometimes they won’t– but Logan in particular doesn’t seem to think it’s much more than a fashion statement. No matter how many people are around, he will basically pull it off of his face in the middle of a fight and not think twice about it: “This thing is obstructing my peripheral vision, bub!”

It’s sort of odd, when you think about it. Once you’ve died on television and tried to blow up the president, everyone knows who you are. If someone walked up to Logan in costume and asked him what his name was, he’d probably just tell them. Why keep putting the mask on? “You don’t understand. I need something outlandish to distract people from my hair. I really do have the stupidest hair. It’s like some kind of deal with the devil: immortality, but stupid hair you just cannot do anything with. A hundred and fifty years of being laughed at by girls.”

Then again, his mask and his hair are exactly the same shape. Maybe he could style it better if he just left that thing in the hamper. All those years of being mocked, and he doesn’t even have bad hair; he just has mask head.


I guess Wolverine is some sort of signpost for a turn we took in depicting our heroes. I keep imagining what it would be like if he had been the star of some Superman-esque Silver Age book. Imagine some plucky gal reporter running around, constantly trying to figure out the connection between Wolverine and Logan. (“Whenever the Wolverine is around, murdering hundreds and hundreds of people and never being brought to justice or even investigated by anyone for it, old Logan’s nowhere to be found! Hmmm….”) Imagine Logan cutting himself in the kitchen and having to keep faking the injury, running for the Band-Aids before anyone could see he’d already healed. (“They musn’t suspect that I am– the Wolverine!”) Imagine him having to find a broom closet to change in before joining the fight. And then there was that dinner party where he was spooked by the host popping the wine cork and accidentally popped his claws and had to behead everyone who couldn’t keep a secret. Which he is apparently allowed to do and still be on Captain America’s Avengers team.

Then again, what identity has he had to protect? “You got me, archnemesis: my name is Logan! I think. Anything longer than a year ago, and it’s pretty much a blur. And I’m pretty sure my entire family has been dead for a century. Oh, and all my current friends and loved ones can melt your face with their minds or throw you through a Long John Silver’s. Do your worst, though, now that you know my name. Have at it, wrecking my credit rating, or whatever. Subscribing me to a bunch of magazines I don’t like. What’s that? ‘Is Logan a first name or a last name?’ See, that’s another thing; no idea. I’m telling you, a total blur.”

These are the sorts of things that start coming to mind when you repeatedly have three prongs of death coming at your face.



Jim Mroczkowski has developed a keen ducking reflex; maybe that’s why he tweets so much. (Get it? Duck? Bird? Tweet? Oh, never mind.)

Comments

  1. Not only does the mass-murderer get to be on Captain America’s Avengers team, he periodically gets to lecture other heroes from a position of moral authority.  That one’s always baffled me (and I *like* Wolverine, I’ve just gotten used to ignoring about 90% of his canon, which is fortunate because I’m not a gazillionaire.)

    Anyway, well mused.  I particularly like the Silver Age Wolverine imagining, and the concept of the mask as a distraction from his hair.

  2. I wouldn’t call the Claremont Wolverine a mass-murderer.  Definately a little more complicated than that

  3. @cutty  At one point, Wolverine was the character who would do the things no one else would do.  Now, pretty much everybody in comics does those things, so it’s not as special.  In any case, though, he’s killed a lot of people.  What’s YOUR definition of mass-murderer?

  4. "that dinner party where he was spooked by the host popping the wine cork and accidentally popped his claws and had to behead everyone who couldn’t keep a secret."

    HHaahha, nice!

  5. It always made sense to me, during the ’80s to the mid-’90s–and particularly under Claremont and Hama’s stewardship of the character–that Wolverine would lecture other heroes about not being violent. At that time Wolverine had grown out of his initial ’70s hot-head days, plus they were building up the backstory about how murderous the character USED to be before he appeared in Marvel continuity. So it made sense for that Wolverine to start warning other characters and saying things like "Don’t be like me. Trust me, you don’t wanna go down that path. I only use these claws as a last resort, and never to kill. Not anymore." Just hearing Wolverine say that would make the reader wonder about the guy’s past.

    That all changed about ten years ago. Marvel started allowing writers to make the character more violent. (Yeah, go read old Wolverine letter columns from about 1990. Younger fans wanted Wolverine to actually use his claws to really hurt people more often, but the editors would explain 1) that the regular Marvel Universe at that time was not for that level of gore, and 2) that it was part of the character for Logan at this time to not want to hurt people so bad, so often.) Now there have been way too many different takes on the character in the past ten years. We don’t know who the guy is. Is he the near-pacifist who doesn’t want to be "an animal" anymore? Is he the guy who you go to when you need to outright KILL badguys as part of a black ops mission? Is he the loner? Is he the guy on twenty teams? There’s no central "Wolverine" anymore, at all.

    I like Mark Millar in general,  but that guy in particular is responsible for a lot of damage to the character. The number of people that Wolverine killed in Enemy of the State was ridiculous. Going after and killing THOUSANDS of badguys? C’mon, the Logan I used to know would not do that; he’d be sneaky, sneak his way into Hydra headquarters and then kill like the top three people and 5 footsoldiers, tops. The point is, Wolverine does not want to be a killing machine. He CAN be one, but he doesn’t want to be. Millar in particular changed things so that the character seemed like he was always looking for a reason to be a killing machine. That destroyed the character that other, more subtle, more thoughtful writers had been building for thirty years. And as far as Old Man Logan goes, the only way the characterization works is if you assume that Wolverine was never a pacifist before. But he was. The wow-factor of OML was the "shocking" idea that Wolverine would refrain from killing–but that’s not much of a big deal at all if you read the character during the mid-80s to mid-90s. If you understand the history of the character and keep it in mind, then OML’s pacifist Wolverine is not that impressive. I read it and thought, "This take on the character is not shocking. It’s only interesting to people who think that all the character ever wanted to do was kill."

    Great article.

  6. @flapjaxx  Yes, to all that, particularly the Millar part.  What bothers me is the comics where Logan lectures other characters in a way that doesn’t really acknowledge he’s a guy with such a sketchy history.  It’s a change from ‘don’t go down the path I’ve been down because I know how bad that can be’ to ‘writers will use this character in any way that is convenient to the story.’  And I know that’s how comics work, it just makes me take some of the stories more seriously than others.

  7. HYSTERICAL!

    Also, I  think that "Logan" never gave a crap so much about his identity because for a looooong time, he had no idea WHO he was.

    They know Logan is Wolverine, but no one, including Logan himself, knows who the heck Logan is.

  8. @flapjaxx – I don’t agree with Jason Aaron’s use of Wolverine either, from all the arabs he killed with a laissez faire attitude thinking they were Mystique, to cutting off some thug’s hand in the subway in Weapon X #1. 

    I guess its cause I come from the Claremont/Hama school – he’s a much more interesting character in the 80’s and 90’s that you described.

     

  9. I have to blame Kevin Smith for all of this.  Ever since the "workers on the death star" Clerks speech, it’s tough to see massive/random henchmen killing as anything but either reprehensible or humorous.

  10. This reminds me of my favorite moment from the show JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. The episode’s title was "The Great Brain Robbery." Somehow, Lex Luthor managed to swap his mind with Wally West’s Flash. Lex, after finding himself in Flash’s body, gets excited to learn a superhero’s secret identity. He manages to get into a bathroom. He approaches the mirror and takes off Flash’s mask. After a beat, he says to himself, "I have no idea who this is."

    There I go again, using another great Jimski article to pinball my mind into some completely tangential area.

  11. I like Wolverine the killer.  I prefer the primal nature of that characterization.  The troubled/hypocritical/moral dilemna Wolverine is tedious.

  12. Maybe Logan has a fetish for wearing the costume. I mean he wore it forever before his name became widely known to the Marvel U.

    Someone had to say it was a fetish…

  13. @vadamowens  So it’s boring when characters do anything but stab people.

    @Aalbatr0ss  I think you have discovered the REAL Wolverine.

  14. @caroline No. Just Wolverine. But if you really want to read into my previous statement, which you obviously did, then go right ahead. I thought I had ‘wolverine’ in my last post, which meant I was just talking about him.  I love the subtle attacks and generalizations (some) people vomit out on this site.

  15. @vadamowens  I understood what you meant and was disagreeing with it.   Sorry if I phrased it badly.  Enjoy the character for whatever reasons you want.

  16. I will. Thanks

  17. I never really understood why Wolverine is on the new avengers with Captain America and Spider-Man. He always kills people, he has blades pop out of his hands and the only use for them is to gut and slice people. The Punisher is deemed a psychopath by everyone in the MU and gets booted from the secret avengers because he’s a killer, but Wolverine is the wise voice of reason who can stay because he…kills? 

    Does everyone on the team act like Dean Venture and think that Wolverine knocks the bad guys out and the police haul them off in sleeping bags?

  18. @Rando I don’t get it either. I’m waiting for the story where Wolverine kills a child and everyone goes "Man, that kid should’ve known better."

  19. @Prax hahaha. I could see Luke Cage going "Sweet Christmas!", with that situation being passed off as something comical

  20. I’ve been thinking lately, perhaps in part due to the Superhero Costumes video episode , that Wolverine’s costume makes absolutely no sense. The mask is the 1st thing, then the yellow, but also, gloves. If you’ve got claws that rip through your flesh, why would you want a fabric to have to go through, too? And how difficult would it be to have it designed so that the claws always go through the holes/those metal thingies every time? Even if you design the glove for that, the fabric could shift and he’d make 3 new claw-holes. 

    Were I to redesign the Wolvie costume, the mask would go the route of the dodo, as would the gloves; they’d be replaced by large, almost clunky wrist covers, mostly for the purpose of making his arms less plain-looking. I’d go with brown as the main color as I always thought it suited him better than a bright yellow, but yellow would be the secondary color used for tradition’s sake more than anything else (the way Luke Cage seems to have a bit of the same hue on his outfit more often than not). He’d have those little shoulder pad things, too and bare arms, ’cause he seems like the kinda guy who’d cut off his sleeves (fuckin’ show off. "Hey, everyone; look at my abnormally hairy arms!"). The boots wouldn’t be pointy at the top, either, but would probably take a design cue from the original blue w/ black stripe look, but with brown or reverse the black and brown so they’re mainly black. The claw mark motif would still be there, but not as blatant. 

    I sound waaaay more into costume design than I actually am. 

  21. I’d pay real money for a silver age Wolverine book;

     

    "Poor, meek, Logan…Mariko will never want a milksop like him…she only loves The Wolverine!"

  22. I think the thing you are all missing about the current wolverine characterisation is that he gets respect despite his murderous past (recent of otherwise) because it is not strictly speaking, in his character to be murderous.

    He rarely revels in his killings like a villain and rarely holds any great animosity toward his victims. The Punisher really WANTS to kill his victims and sees nothing wrong with it. Despite also being a victim of circumstance, the punisher put himself in the position he is in.

    Logan has been conditioned for 100 years to be able to kill on demand and he has become very good at it. As a result he is asked to do the dirty work all the time which he is willing to do to save "better" people than himself from getting their hands dirty and having to live with the guilt of killing, which Logan no longer feels because of his conditioning and desensitisation.

    The current Wolverine is still like the Claremont version but these days he is willing to forego his own pacifist leanings to do wht has to be done and save others from the doing of it.

    There are exceptions to this as per writing style, but generally speaking that is how he comes across to me on the whole.

  23. I’m gonna add some goggles to the baby registry now.

  24. I personally like Wolverine’s current role in X-Men Forever.

  25. Here’s what I learned today: Jimski poops at least once a day…and looks at it.  🙂

  26. You gotta give Claremont some credit; he did something that should’ve been done a long time ago with X-Men Forever.

  27. @Neb you just made me shoot milk out of my nose. and i was drinking orange juice!

    @Jimski another great article. And thank you for warning me about something IMPORTANT I have to look out for with the baby on the way.

    @Josh I’m adding a full blast shield to my baby registry.  

  28. @flapjaxx – He wasn’t so much a pacifist as he swore not to pop his claws ever again. Big difference. Would a pacifist jump the Spider-Buggy through the wall of a building?

  29. @Neb: Isn’t Wolverine dead in…. oh I get. Dude that’s awesome.

    Don’t forget his name really isn’t even Logan it’s James.

  30. Reason 41.

  31. I think that to say Logan is murderous or a mass-murderer is a little miss leading.  he doesn’t go around killing innocents, civilians or bystanders, he kills people that are trying to kill him, the general public, or his friends.  Sometimes they make him a little too brutal or cavalier about the violence he commits then i would like, but generally speaking, i don’t see his actions as being truly murderous, especially when you consider the world he lives in.  

    frankly, more superheroes should be willing to kill. i find Batman’s unwillingness to kill the likes of the Joker to be irresponsible and an endangerment to the public

  32. I’ve never known Wolverine the killer. I grew up with the x-men cartoon and never knew he was a killer until i read comics only a few months back

  33. Both har13quin and jashcraft1014 have the right of it.